Navy veteran Josh Delano, wearing a cap and gown at his college graduation  ceremony
Our Values In Action

Extending Our Service to Veterans

Before he joined one of the nation’s premier military and veterans’ support organizations, Steve Schwab hadn’t fully grasped the enormous vulnerability of veterans who were transitioning to civilian life.

“The vast majority of Americans have no clue about what’s going on in military families — and I was one of them,” says Schwab, who became Chief Executive Officer of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation in early 2019 after four years as its Executive Director. “We have not figured out as a country how to adequately support a smooth transition for those coming out of service, especially those leaving military duty with profound mental, emotional, and physical wounds.”

According to federal statistics, nearly 1.4 million veterans live in households that participate in the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and only 45% of all veterans are employed. And with an estimated 30% of low-income veterans without internet service at home, according to the 2016 American Community Survey — and about 40% without their own computer — many veterans and their caregivers lack the digital tools and capabilities needed to access essential government benefits and resources, job opportunities, and social connections both within and beyond their military communities.

1.4M

veterans live in households that participate in the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Josh Delano stands behind his two young daughters, one working on a laptop and the other writing on paper
Josh Delano, a Navy vet, helps his daughters with their homework, thanks to the low-cost home broadband connection provided through Internet Essentials.

In 2018, Comcast expanded our Internet Essentials broadband adoption program to reach an estimated 1 million low-income veterans living in our service area around the country.

“Internet Essentials has had such a tremendously positive impact on so many families and children, opening up the door to a world of opportunity at home. Veterans have stood up for our country, so it’s important that we stand up for them by providing access to life-changing digital tools and resources,” says David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Comcast Corporation.

As part of the expansion — the second largest in the program’s history and the 11th in seven years — we partnered with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and the PsychArmor Institute to provide digital skills training and increase awareness about the Internet Essentials program.

Veterans have stood up for our country, so it’s important that we stand up for them by providing access to life-changing digital tools and resources.
David L. Cohen
Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Comcast Corporation

Internet at home makes a huge difference — financially and socially — for veterans, their caregivers, and their families.

When Josh Delano left the Navy after four deployments to spend more time with his two school-age daughters, he struggled to make ends meet. With help from the federal G.I. Bill, he began studying electrical engineering at California State University, Fresno, but there were many day-to-day living expenses he hadn’t anticipated. Home internet seemed to be a luxury he couldn’t afford.

Delano found himself spending long hours at his college and local libraries to access the internet, and it began taking a very personal toll. “No internet at home meant giving up more time with my kids, which is the main reason I left the military in the first place,” he says.

Getting internet through the Internet Essentials program — at a cost of $9.95 a month — allowed him to study, read online textbooks, email his professors and classmates, and submit course assignments right from his kitchen table. Being connected at home also allowed Josh to spend more time with his daughters while successfully completing his degree. “Having the internet at home is mission critical to going to college,” says Delano, who got a job as an electrical engineer after graduating in June 2018.

Delano ticks off a list of other timesaving benefits to having the internet at home, from online bill paying to shopping to entertainment. “Time was my most precious resource, and I needed to conserve time to do all my homework, help out my kids with their homework, and do what I needed to do to maintain a home,” Delano explains.

Like any community, our veterans rely on internet access to succeed, says U.S. Army Brigadier General (Retired) Carol Eggert, Senior Vice President for Military and Veteran Affairs at Comcast NBCUniversal. “Josh Delano and his family can better focus on their priorities without the obstacles they once faced. We want to make that happen for as many other veterans and their loved ones as possible.”

Creating greater internet access for military families can also help be a bridge to essential health and wellness resources. For a population that has disproportionate rates of depression and suicide, support from online communities is literally a lifesaver. Schwab, of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, says veterans and their caregivers repeat a similar refrain once they obtain the internet at home for the first time. “The quote I hear over and over again is: ‘It’s changed my life,’” he says.

Comcast NBCUniversal is a supporter of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s Hidden Heroes campaign, which offers an online community for military caregivers. TODAY Show anchor Savannah Guthrie is a Hidden Heroes Ambassador, helping to spread the message that caregivers are the glue holding military families together.

In the two years since the program began, nearly 130 communities nationwide have signed on as Hidden Heroes Cities to raise awareness and support of caregivers, veterans, and families. With funding from Comcast NBCUniversal, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation is poised to partner with nonprofits in 10 of those cities to establish computer labs and digital training programs for military families and caregivers.

“Having Comcast NBCUniversal as a partner has been a game changer,” Schwab says. “The company has amplified our message, including our focus on the caregiver, and allowed us to get that message out at a much faster rate than we otherwise could have.”

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